Edinburgh eked out a potentially crucial 24-23 victory over high-flying Scarlets in a bizarre game of two halves at sun-kissed BT Murrayfield yesterday.
Alan Solomons’ men edged home to keep alive their hopes of a top-half finish and a return to the elite European Champions Cup.
A poor quality first half was marked by a plethora of unforced errors, missed tackles and general untidiness from both teams. After Blair Kinghorn and Aled Thomas had exchanged penalties Edinburgh struck first when Phil Burleigh danced through the dazzling mandarin and custard clad Scarlets defence to dot down near the posts, Kinghorn converting.
However, the Welsh took control from then on and if it hadn’t been for the accurate boot of Kinghorn, and the wayward one of Thomas – who missed three routine chances – the game could have been ov by half-time.
The visitors were gifted three tries, the first of which came when Cornell du Preez’s wild pass was gleefully accepted by centre Hadleigh Parkes.
James Davies and Steffan Davies then took full advantage of weak Edinburgh defence, with two well struck penalties by Kinghorn keeping the home side in touch at 23-16 down when the half-time whistle blew.
Kinghorn nudged his side further back into contention with another penalty early in the second half and Edinburgh thought they had moved into the lead when Burleigh drove over for what appeared to be his second try.
However, the Irish referee Dudley Phillips went to the TMO, who confirmed a double movement.
After the end-to-end breathlessness of the first 40 minutes the game tightened up markedly and became a bit of an arm wrestle.
As the final ten minutes approached, Edinburgh stepped up a gear and, when Burleigh spun wide to substitute Magnus Bradbury, the young back-row prospect showed great dynamism to burst through the Scarlets defence and bear down on the line.
The momentum continued and it was international lock Ben Toolis who forced his way over to edge his side into a 24-23 lead.
Kinghorn struck the post with the conversion attempt and, two minutes later, Scarlets won a penalty around 38 metres out but Thomas’s kicking demons returned and he shanked it wide.
The Welshmen continued to press but the Edinburgh line held and there was a huge cheer with five minutes remaining when great work by Jamie Ritchie produced a pressure-relieving penalty.
But the lineout was lost and the visitors were able to have one last push for victory. They couldn’t break out of their own half, however, and Edinburgh turned over just as the clock struck 80 minutes and the job was done.
“We coudn’t afford to lose this game, it’s as simple as that,” said Solomons. “Our aim is to go game by game. Every one we play from now to the end of the season is critical. We have Connacht next weekend, and they have done really well. They don’t lose too many players to the Six Nations.
Edinburgh: Tries: Burleigh, B Toolis, Con: Kinghorn. Pens: Kinghorn 4.
Scarlets: Tries: Parkes, Davies, Evans, Con: Thomas. Pens: Thomas 2.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, M Allen, S Beard, T Brown; P Burleigh, S Kennedy; A Dell, N Cochrane, J Andress, A Bresler, B Toolis, J Ritchie, H Watson, C Du Preez. Subs: G Turner, G Shiells, S Berghan, A Toolis, M Bradbury, N Fowles, C Dean, D Fife.
Scarlets: M Collins; G Owen, RKing, H Parkes, S Evans; A Thomas, A Davies; P John, K Myhill, P Edwards, G Earle, D Bulbring, M Paulino, J Davies, M Allen. Subs: R Elias, D Evans, R Jones, R Pittman, W Boyde, R Williams, D Jones, M Tagicakibau.